By Carmencita A. Carillo, Correspondent
DAVAO CITY — “Please don’t disrupt our lives,” was the plea made by Paulina C. Pestaño on behalf of the 1,600 lot owners at South Pacific Golf and Leisure Estates Homeowners Association. The high-end subdivision developed by Sta. Lucia Realty, which is also home to an 18-hole par-72 golf course worth P500 million, is one of several areas that will be affected by the alignment of the Mindanao Railway System (MRS) Tagum-Davao-Digos (TDD) segment.
Ms. Pestaño grew up in Davao, relocated and worked in another city and then decided to retire in the city. Her family has been living in South Pacific for two years now after the completion of their house in 2017. Family refers to her and her siblings — one a physician in Zamboanga who visits Davao almost every month and the other one an engineer living in California who comes home twice a year, and the other one a retired CPA who used to manage the family business.
“We decided to retire here and build our retirement home at South Pacific primarily because of the fresh air and of course there is a golf course. If they build the railway there they will destroy the very reason why we invested in the area for retirement,” she told BusinessWorld in an interview.
While the MRS project manager said no house will be directly hit by the railway construction, she said, the construction will still pass through the golf course and the newly-completed clubhouse which cost P50 million to build. If there is construction activity even in hole No. 1 alone, she added, then there will be no more golf since all the golfers have to tee off there.
South Pacific has become a top destination among local and foreign golfers. The 18-hole course placed on 70 hectares of rolling greens together with a great landscape of creeks and ponds was designed by Arnold Palmer. It is one of the few golf courses in the Philippines designed by one of the world’s greatest golfers. Golfers agree that the best thing about the South Pacific Golf and Leisure Estate is not just the greens but the mountainous backdrop.
The number of golfers frequenting South Pacific has increased with the Matina Golf Course already closed down to pave the way for a 22-hectare business district.
While they do not yet clearly understand the technicalities involved in the MRS, Ms. Pestaño said they are certain that it will disrupt their lives even if the government assured them that it will be done in phases. The Department of Transportation (DOTR) revised the design of the railway that will pass the golf course which will not be a tunnel design.
The homeowners were told that the contractor will have to dig, cut and cover which means closing down the golf course for months or years. This will affect the livelihood of over 130 caddies and umbrella girls as well as over 30 golfcourse maintenance workers.
But more than the disruption of the golf course, she said, the railway construction will mean the disruption of the lives of the people living inside the golf course, most of whom are retirees suffering or recuperating from illnesses.
“We were assured that no houses will be damaged but of course during construction there will be dust, noise and security risk since the laborers will be going in and out of the subdivision,” she said. “If there is a railway then there is definitely a train and even if it is underground there will be a disturbance and movement every time it passes,” she added.
Ms. Pestaño said the presentations made by the DOTR technical consultant from HongKong during last December’s City Council meeting showed that the railway alignment failed to consider not only the development plans for the affected community. She also said the maps showing the railway alignment as it passes through the golf course were also based on outdated maps taken from Google Earth because some areas were still marked as parks.
“Even if he were to use Google Earth maps today he would only see the beginning of a golf course. We wonder if the project team even drove through the proposed route of the railway from Tagum to Digos to validate what Google Earth is showing,” she said.
Ms. Pestaño said the retirees who chose to spend their twilight years in this community did so because of the presence of the golf course, affording them fresh, clean air as well as a peaceful and secure environment.
“When asked if he knows of any golf course in the world that has a train inside it the technical consultant replied in the negative,” she said. A train traveling within a few kilometers of one’s home would always be heard especially at night or early in the morning. And whether the railway will be elevated or underground, she added, there will always be pollution and noise.
She said for many of them, building another house or moving to another location is no longer an option.
During the committee hearing, she said, the technical consultant of the railway said the cost per kilometer of railway is P1 billion. This means an additional 3.5 kilometers of railway would cost P3.5 billion which is less than what it would cost the project if it were to destroy the golf course, pay the right-of-way of the properties.
“But even if government pays us, where will we go? We are already retired. The peaceful, serene and secure environment that we would lose cannot be monetarily compensated,” she said.
Residents of another subdivision that will be affected by the railway construction also aired the same concerns. Residents of Monteritz Subdivision are also at a quandary as to how their lives will be disrupted not only by the railway once construction starts, and once it starts to operate.
DoTr Assistant Secretary Eymard D. Eje said there will always be properties that will be affected every time there is a government project. However, he said, if the government considers the complaints of those affected, then they will never be able to even start a project.
He admitted that they are fast-tracking the MRP in order to complete this within the term of President Rodrigo R. Duterte. Otherwise, Mindanao will lose its chance to have a better transport system.
The MRP has undergone many changes in the project scope including the change from a single track to dual track railway. These and other changes brought the cost up from P35.257 billion to P97.386 billion, which requires the government to explore foreign loans such as official development assistance from China.
By Carmencita A. Carillo, Correspondent